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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"


ZIfARLY in his life Samuel Butler began to cany a note-
** book and to write down in it anything he wanted to
remember ; it might be something he heard some one sayt more
commonly it was something he said himself. In one of these
notes he gives a reason for making them:

" One's thoughts fly so fast that one must shoot them ; it is
no use trying to put salt on their tails."

So he bagged as many as he could hit and preserved them,
re-written on loose sheets of paper which constituted a sort of
museum stored with the wise, beautiful, and strange creatures
that were continually winging their way across the field of his
vision. As he became a more expert marksman his collection
increased and his museum grew so crowded that he wanted a
catalog^ie. In 1874 he started an index, and this led to his re-
considering the notes, destroying those that he remembered having
used in his published books and re-writing the remainder. The
re-writing shortened some but it lengthened others and suggested
so many new ones that the index was soon of little use and there
seemed to be no finality about it ('Making Notes," pp. 100-1
post). In 1891 he attacked the problem afresh and made it a
rule to spend an hour every morning re-editing his notes and
keeping his index up to date. At his death, in 1902, he left
five bound volumes, with the contents dated and indexed, about
225 pages of closely written sermon paper to each volume,
and more than enough unbound and unindexed sheets to make
a sixth volume of equal size.

In accordance with his own advice to a young writer (p. 363
post), he wrote the notes in copying ink and kept a pressed
copy with me as a precaution against fire ; but during his life-
time, unless he wanted to refer to something while he was in my
chambers, I never looked at them. After his death I took them
down and went through them. I knew in a general way what I
should find, but I was not prepared for such a multitude and

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